Helen and Kevin | 18.01.2004 14:58 | World
On arrival we learnt from an Iraqi friend that the target was the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). This is located over the river from us, some 3/4 of a mile away. The road bridge was closed, however we accessed the bridge from the side steps. A number of ambulances were travelling at high speed to the scene, accompanied by police and military vehicles. A tank guarded the far side of the bridge.
A considerable group of on-lookers, media and survivors had gathered. They were being corralled in by US soldiers and Iraqi police. The target was a large triumphal arch which leads into the `Green Zone`. This huge area of Baghdad was the nerve centre during Sadaam`s time and is now occupied by the Americans. Security near this gateway is always tight, there are always 12 or more US soldiers,a similar number of the new Iraqi army and a few tanks of varying sizes. There is always a steady stream of military convoys coming and going. The large building as you enter the site (adjacent the road and river) is the Depleted Uranium bomb damaged Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.
This area is where ordinary Iraqis queue up in the morning to try to find out any details about their relatives who are held in American custody. The lane leading into the arch is always full of cars queuing to get into the site. Vehicles with passes use a different lane. Our friend told us that two car bombs had exploded - one a `Caprice` car , the other a landcruiser type vehicle. They exploded at a sychronised moment. While at the scene we saw three men who had been injured. Another Iraqi man had a piece of shrapnel , measuring 450 x 250mm (18" x 10"). A number of Iraqis at the scene all agreed that this was part of a explosive casing used by tanks. They said that this would have been wired to incresae the velocity of the explosion. While there news began to emerge that up to 18 had died and up to 60 injured. Apparently all dead were Iraqi, although there were rumours that some of the US soldiers on the gate had been wounded. The US soldiers denied this, but having walked past here dozens of times and considering the extent of the devastion, this seems highly unlikely. Once again it is Iraqis dying in large numbers.
The American soldiers once again did their increasingly poorer image , no favours. They manhandled people , threatened arrest and force, and did not speak a word of Arabic. They even used the oppurtunity to give out propaganda leaflets, much to our amusement these were at first welcomed by the jounalists and thrown down! As the economic situation worsens more Iraqis are beginning to complain and they are putting all the problems at the Americans doorstep - literally!
Onto other matters the boys, well most of them are settling into the Kurdistan Save The Children house. Although we are at present still rounding up boys that have left and talking them into giving it a bit longer. A `bigger` problem seems to be the inreasing number of `bigger` boys. Their age ranges from 16/17-24/25. They are difficult to approach as they gather in groups of 15 or so and are violent. They harrass the smaller boys, but the smaller boys seem to find it attractive to hang out with them. Some of our boys who have decided not to stay at the Kurds house are now back at the old house. This is good, not because they have left, but because we do not want having contact with the big boys. We also know where they are and where to send the social workers to talk to them. At present ,although there are some hard drugs, street children sniff glue and drink/sniff thinners. It is obvious however that hard drugs will arrive and their arrival will be devastating to a traumatised population with large scale unemployment , increasing homelessness and no hope for the future.
All for now,
Kevin and Helen Williams.
Helen and Kevin